New York Torch Song…

For those of you who know me, it should come as no surprise that I have always longed to be a torch singer. One of those warbling women in fabulous evening wear. Women with melodramatic names like… The Lonely Sparrow or The Siren of Song. I really think I could do it. Especially during the holidays. I could make a great debut.

Now, NYC loves to sing. I realized this the other day when I walked out my door on the upper west side (a neighborhood some might characterize as dead, but who would quickly realize he is wrong were he to attend the opening ceremonies of Fall Fashion Week with its cavalcade of skinny people traipsing through Central Park all clad in Chanel, or were he present for the JVC Jazz Festival, or even the weird Indian Prime Minister’s 30,000-person “be-in” last month. It’s far from dead up here Frenchy. And you know you love it. I see through you like pantyhose).

But I digress…

New Yorkers love to sing. I know this because while standing there the other day feeling as though the opening of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue were my sworn anthem, something happens:

Out of nowhere, a bike messenger whizzes by. He is crooning “Night and Day.” Yes, Sinatra is probably best known for singing it, but I feel like Ella’s version has more momentum…

You’ve got to get past the “tom-tom” section… but then, all the minor chords kick in and it’s like sinking into a warm bath–water layering leg over leg. Lullaby of Birdland is even better for this feeling:

At the singing cyclist I chuckle smugly on my doorstep… it’s so cultured here… even the bike messengers have perfect pitch… ha, take that everywhere else… Flat much?

I head for the park to suffer through yet another daily run that Marvin has prescribed as part of my physical renaissance, it happens again. Singing.

Now, runners, as a universal truth, are a self-loathing lot. Have you seen their faces? They’re always squunched in agony, disgust and an unavoidable “oh shiiiiiit!”

It’s true. Look:


Botox doctors should partner with Nike and co-market the doody out of this.

So, I’m plodding along (not in Chanel) feeling mundane, when an awkward squadron of 15 year old girls comes running along, all in formation and singing:

I swear it’s the antidote to running. These girls were so unmiserable.

Cut to later in the day… after I’d had a shower… I’m in the print shop on the corner. (I don’t own a printer anymore. As far as I’m concerned, printers are from hell. Let some other patient yahoo sweat over things like toner. Bleck. As far as I’m concerned, toner is for hair (to reduce brassiness) but back to the topic of New York singing…

Lately, it seems all I do is deal with contracts and proposals, all of which require paper and real signatures. One lawyer I know said he’d had an email from the state courts saying that they no longer accept emails because it was too much work and to just fax things… Fax things? What is this, 1987?

And so, I’m in the print shop, and I’m trying to fill out these dumb Fedex forms, but the owner, who sits in the corner like a mob boss, is singing.And singing. It’s not strident. It’s Fleetwood Mac. He’s singing lyrics like, “you can go your own way… because a landslide brought me down…” The problem is that I’m am writing what he’s singing. I ask for another Fedex label. I want to tell the owner to shut it, but I can’t… I need these guys. it’s Saturday, and I need 10am Monday delivery. I hold back. NYC loves to sing.

It’s the holiday season…a time where even the most media-phobic can’t escape the vocal stylings of Michael Buble. He is everywhere, a constant caroler. My youngest daughter says that most carolers should be arrested for disturbing the peace, but I don’t agree. Who’s to say that caroling or unmediated voices in the street (Christmas, jazz or otherwise) can’t be a powerfully disruptive force much like the printing press or the interweb? Ok. It may be a stretch, but in my decrepitude, I still believe that the right song can shift a moment from dangerously awkward to comically curious, from inauthentic to real admission. Admission that a certain might have been just one of those things:

So, I’m going to sing with the bike messengers and the print shop guys on Christmas eve. What kind of crazy, noisy city, a supposedly tough, unforgiving city, let’s people sing like this? One that let’s them live out their torch singer dreams? Only one that would whisper… and-a-one, and-a-two and a…

Only Manhattan.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s